Last Monday, January 9, we celebrated the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Though it is usually celebrated on a Sunday, due to the Liturgical calendar this year, it was transferred to Monday as January 8 we celebrated Epiphany. This week, I invite you to reflect upon your own baptism and God’s call to each of us to live the Gospel. Every time we gather as Church, we are offered an opportunity to reflect on how we might live our baptismal call each and every day of our life. Parents, Godparents, indeed all of us who are members of the Church, are reminded that no child grows in faith alone. The familiar saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is never more clear than when we look at passing on our Catholic faith to children or those new to the faith.
As we all should know, becoming a Catholic, being faithful to Jesus Christ, living the Commandments of loving God and neighbor is not accomplished by the mere pouring of the baptismal water. Baptism only begins a life-long task of growing in faith and love of God and neighbor.
For over 2,000 years babies, young children, teenagers and older men and women, have had the saving waters of Baptism poured upon them in varied places throughout the world. Whether it was in the first wooden frame church, here in our present church or perhaps in an emergency in the hospital; St. Peter's Church has been a place where thousands have received new life in God through Baptism. That passing on of our faith and baptizing new members in the 21st century continues throughout the world.
In the Rite of Baptism for Children, the celebrant says, “You have asked to have your children baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training them in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring them up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?”
Parents rightly are the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith. The Rite of Baptism makes that point quite clear. Though the words I have placed below are addressed to parents and godparents, just before the Baptism, they are also directed to each of us who belong to the Church and who welcome new members through Baptism. As a baptized member of the Catholic faith, I invite you to reflect upon these words, taken from the 2020 revised Rite of Baptism.
" Through the Sacrament of Baptism the children you have presented are about to receive from the love of God new life by water and the Holy Spirit. For your part, you must strive to bring them up in the faith, so that this divine life may be preserved from the contagion of sin, and may grow in them day by day. If your faith makes your ready to accept this responsibility, then, mindful of your own Baptism, renounce sin and profess faith in Christ Jesus, the faith of the Church, in which children are baptized." (Rite of Baptism, 2020)
When we present our children or adults to receive Baptism it is the beginning of a life-long journey with God and incorporation into the Christian community.
With the celebration of the feast of the Baptism of the Lord last Monday, we also come to the completion of the Christmas season. We returned to Ordinary Time Tuesday, January 10. The next change of seasons in the Church will be the beginning of Lent on February 22, Ash Wednesday.
Tomorrow, Monday, January 16 is a national holiday as we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Though great progress has been made in tolerance throughout our country since the 1960’s, there is still much work to do. As tragic attacks on other human beings, shootings and hate filled language that have become more prevalent in the past couple of years has shown, we still have much work to do to make equality for all people a reality. Let us join in prayer and work daily so that all people of the world might realize the “Dream” of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that we are truly brothers and sisters to one another in the human family.
Dr. King was an eloquent speaker and champion for the rights of all people. As he noted, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others. In dangerous valleys and hazardous pathway, he will lift some bruised and beaten brother or sister to a higher and more noble life.” Among his many writings, speeches and marches, perhaps his legacy is most remembered in the powerful “I Have a Dream” speech he gave at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on August 28, 1963.
On April 4, 1968, while in Memphis, Tennessee to support striking sanitation workers, Rev. King was shot and killed by a sniper. Though our country has made significant hopeful changes in racial equality the past fifty-four years, there is a growing undercurrent of racism present in our society today. As we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., we are reminded that it is up to us, who live in our great country today, to carry on the work of assuring that every man, woman and child who lives within the USA is treated equally.
Tomorrow, I encourage you to listen to and read the entire speech that Dr. King gave on that hot August day in Washington in 1963. And let each of us be reminded of the powerful words and challenge he spoke at the end of that speech, “…and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all God’s children, black men [& women] and white men [& women], Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of that old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!”
The past couple of years have not been easy ones for anyone who lives here on Planet Earth. The COVID FLU and RSV viruses continue to disrupt the life of many individuals and their families. The tremendous sacrifices that medical people have been giving to try and keep us all healthy deserves the highest praise and thanks that we can give to these heroic people. Though increasing violence has taken the lives of far too many innocent people and especially the death of young people, we need to commend those who are working to try and stem this increase of violence. Each of us who live in this great city we call Chicago must not only condemn this violence we need to help one another find creative ways of bringing peace to not only the Loop but also our neighborhoods.
Children are shot and killed in their own yards, while travelling in a car with their parent(s) or even killed by stray or intentional bullets in their home while watching TV or even sleeping in their beds. When adults getting out of their vehicle are carjacked, injured or even shot, when more and more people fear riding a CTA bus or “El” we cannot lament these terrible tragedies and then do nothing. The words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoken in the 1960’s challenge us today……“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Please continue to pray for eternal rest for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and the guidance of the Holy Spirit for Pope Francis, Cardinal Cupich and all who lead in the Church. May God be with each of us in this New Year to be able to bring peace and compassion to our troubled world.